Maine’s fertility rates ticked up in 2021, at least temporarily reversing a pattern of declining birth rates that stretches back more than 60 years, according to recently finalized Center for Disease Control data.

Maine’s fertility rate, defined as the number of births per 1,000 women aged 15-44, rose 1.4% to 49.9, outpacing the average national growth. Still, the rate remained in the bottom five nationally, which economists have warned could eventually exacerbate Maine’s existing workforce issues.

About 12,000 babies were born in the state in 2021, up by 460 from 2020 but down nearly 50% from 1960, according to state data.

Statewide data mirrored reports from Mid Coast Hospital, which delivered 533 babies in 2021, compared to 467 in 2020, according to a hospital spokesperson. The hospital said it was difficult to assess whether the pattern was related to the pandemic.

Pregnancies among older age groups drove Maine’s increases in 2021. While births among teenagers once again declined after a blip in 2020, the CDC reported increased fertility rates among Maine women from their mid-20s through mid-40s, which mirrored a national trend.

As a result, the national mean age of first birth rose to 27.3, a record high.


The shift toward pregnancies at an older age could illustrate positive societal strides for women who increasingly have the agency to prioritize establishing their careers over childrearing during their 20s, Helen Hemminger, research and KIDS COUNT associate for the Maine Children’s Alliance, told The Forecaster last year. But challenging economic conditions, including a shortage of quality child care spots and the sky-high cost of housing, could also be influencing some would-be parents to hold off on having kids.

“What you want is choice,” Hemminger said. “Not a false choice because people can’t afford to have children.”

One choice growing in popularity among Mainers is the decision to give birth outside of the traditional hospital setting.

After COVID concerns and related hospital restrictions contributed to a spike in home births in 2020, Maine saw another 17% bump in 2021, according to CDC data. Only six states had a greater share of births outside of hospitals.

During the first year of the pandemic, the midwives of Brunswick’s In the Nest Midwifery & Abdominal Therapy saw a surge in clients looking to avoid crowded hospitals, said midwife and co-owner Hannah Neumann. Business hasn’t significantly slowed even as pandemic fears have ebbed, which Neumann credits to parents’ growing desire to take control of their birth process by collaborating with trusted midwives.

“People are wanting the freedom to follow their bodies,” she said. “I think it’s here to stay.”

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